Helping You Understand FERPA as a Valencia Employee

A Message from Linda Herlocker, Assistant Vice President, Admissions and Records

Valencia has a firm commitment to upholding student privacy rights in compliance with the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA), and it’s essential that, as a Valencia faculty or staff member, you are acquainted with FERPA policies and procedures. This way you can avoid violations, no matter how innocent they may seem, and, as a result, protect students’ right to privacy.

FERPA, also sometimes called the Buckley Amendment, was passed by Congress in 1974 and grants four specific rights to college students, which can be summarized as follows:

  • The right to see the information that the institution is keeping on the student
  • The right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record
  • The right to consent to disclosure of his/her records
  • The right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington, D.C.

There are exceptions to the rules, such as sharing information in connection with a health or safety emergency, but, on the whole, it’s best to default to a policy of securing student records until an exception can be validated or the student’s written consent can be obtained.

Below are a few things about FERPA and the protection of student information that may surprise you:

1. The only information that you can release to anyone without the student’s written consent are name, major of study and dates of attendance, along with honors, awards and degrees. These are the four data elements that the College has defined as Directory Information.

2. Providing a parent, or anyone else, with information about a student’s attendance in any class is an unauthorized release. Please note that a student’s attendance in any class should not be confused with the dates of attendance, which is generally defined as a student’s dates of enrollment (“from and to” dates).

3. Giving an unofficial transcript — even if it is in a sealed envelope — to anyone other than the student (unless you have written consent from the student) is an unauthorized release of information.

4. Giving out a student’s Atlas email, mailing address or phone number is an unauthorized release of information — even to approved College partners like national club sponsors or scholarship administrators.

5. Without written consent, sharing information about any student’s schedule, courses taken and/or academic achievement is an unauthorized release — even to potential employers.

6. Even providing a student with a letter of recommendation that contains any education record information about the student other than your direct observation or Directory Information is an unauthorized release of information. Please note that there are two exceptions here:

  • You can provide more than direct observation or Directory Information, if you have the student’s written permission (verbal permission and email permission do not count), and the written permission must say what information is approved to share and to whom; and
  • If you do provide such a letter, this letter is technically part of the student’s academic record and is, therefore, protected under FERPA and should be turned over to the Office of Admissions and Records to be added to the student’s official record.

7. Providing a parent with a dependent student’s information may be considered an unauthorized disclosure, because, while FERPA does allow for the disclosure of information to parents, it does not mandate it. Whether or not to disclose information is an institutional decision. If pressed on this point, the parent requesting the information should be referred to the assistant vice president of admissions and records.

8. Also, as an employee, even if there is a “Release of Information” on file, checking your own child’s record for any reason is a violation of your child’s privacy. If there is a “Release of Information” on file, please ask the staff member in the appropriate department to provide the information you seek.

For more information on FERPA regulations and exceptions, click here for a thorough summary of the legislation. If you feel well-acquainted with the act and its applications, click here for a quiz that will test your understanding of regulations and how they might pertain to your role at Valencia.

Moreover, it is important to note that changing anything in your own record, even something as benign as an address, is against policy. All changes need to be requested and made through the appropriate channels. Also, do not give your login and password information to anyone, even if you are doing so in order to conduct official business. Anyone signed in to Valencia’s systems must use his or her own credentials. Administering your credentials to anyone else, no matter how trusted that person may be, presents a huge security problem as well as an accountability issue.

If you have questions, please contact me at lherlocker@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 1511.

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